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Community centre presidents rally against cuts

December 3rd, 2009 · 8 Comments

There’s been a lot written about the conservatory and petting zoo closures as part of the park-board budget, less so about the impacts at community centres.

I wasn’t sure what all they were, but community centre presidents are sending out the message that they are not trivial. Here’s their news release from this morning.

City’s Proposed Budget Cuts Will Close Community Centre Doors

Seniors, children, youth-at-risk, single mothers, and the homeless are just some of the vulnerable throughout Vancouver who will feel the brunt of the City’s proposed cuts to the Park Board budget that funds Vancouver’s 22 community centres.

“We provide showers and hot breakfasts for the homeless, relief and skills training for single parents, safe, productive evening activities for youth-at-risk, and unique social opportunities for our seniors,” said Thunderbird Community Centre President Mike Bradley, “and all for free or at prices that the less well-off in our society can afford”.

On November 13, the Vancouver Park Board revealed that the City of Vancouver’s proposed budget envelope for the entire Park Board would require cutbacks of $2.8 million to address the operating budget shortfall for 2010. Almost half of these cost reductions ($1.3 million or 46%) are currently targeting ‘recreation’ which includes essential funding for community centres, pools and rinks.

“If this scale of budget cut is levied against community centres, core programming will be dramatically curtailed with working families and low income earners paying the price,” Bradley said.

Vancouver’s 22 community centres received 5.4 million visits last year at an average cost of $2.84 per visit, according to Park Board statistics. “These community centre patrons are not usually the families that can afford private clubs to keep fit or socialize,” said Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre spokesperson Danny Yu, “the rich won’t be the ones affected by these cutbacks, it will be those at the bottom of the income ladder”.

In terms of caring for youth-at-risk, cutting access to community centres is actually a major false economy. Research shows that for every $1 spent on youth services, between $8 and $11 are saved in policing and court costs.

Bradley and Yu are especially surprised that Mayor Gregor Robertson would contemplate cuts of this kind to community centres when these facilities are vital to his number one goal of making Vancouver the greenest city on Earth. “Complete, compact neighbourhoods, where citizens of all ages can work and play within walking distance of their homes are key to a sustainable and resilient city,” Bradley said. “Our community centres are the hearts of such neighbourhoods. If the services they provide lag behind the growth in population, all we are left with is unhealthy overcrowding.”

The Community Association Presidents Group believes that Vancouver citizens are prepared to pay the taxes necessary to support current levels of community centre service. “We therefore request City Council to increase funding to the Park Board by $1.3 million for recreation services – sufficient to prevent the damaging cutbacks to community centre social service programs for the vulnerable that will occur without such support.”

Vancouver Community Centre Association  Presidents Group

James Gill – APG President – West Point Grey

Kathleen Bigsby – Vice-Chair – Kerrisdale

Ray Gallagher – Britannia

Abdul Shaikh – Champlain

Joyce Saben – Douglas Park

Erica Levy – Dunbar

Eric Harms – Hastings

Brad Tamplin – Kensington

Susan Duffy – Kerrisdale

Keith Jacobson – Killarney

Robert Haines – Kitsilano

Danny Yu – Marpole Oakridge

Nancy Chiavario – Mount Pleasant

Steve Bouchard – Ray Cam

Gayle Uthoff – Renfrew

Marion Waterston – Riley Park

Dr. Patricia Badir – Strathcona

Setty Pendakur – Roundhouse

Ken Thompson – Sunset

Mike Bradley – Thunderbird

Chris Payne – Trout Lake

Dory Lanenter – West End

Eileen Pedde – False Creek

Vicki Rogers – Sunrise

Categories: Uncategorized

  • City Observer

    Frances, is this the same Vision Vancouver Council you awarded an A- to in your ‘Vision’ first year adjudication only a couple of weeks back, on the CBC?

    Honestly, Frances, have we had a more out of touch, greenwashing, development-oriented, anti-community group of Councillors in recent years? Sam Sullivan’s administration may have been incompetent, but the current group of disingenuous bozos we have at City Hall give new, dark meaning to the word “inept” (and the same can be said of the embarrassingly sorry lot of Visionista ‘Ballemites’ on Park Board).

  • jack the bear

    The shine is certainly starting to come off this council, not that one can see anything worthwhile in opposition. One thing I am certain of – if I have to choose between the Bloedel Conservatory and Community Centre services there’s no contest.

  • anon

    According to the Parks Board website, there are 23 community centres not 22. Also, it should be noted that the Carnegie (including Oppenheimer Park), the Evelyne Saller Center and the Gathering Place come under the Community Services Group. I wonder how much fat was found in these operations?

  • getreal

    James Gill – APG President – West Point Grey president doesn’t even live in Vancouver.
    This is just a sad letter– it says give me all the services I can devour but I offers no solutions other then slash somewhere else or raise taxes. No one wants a 10 percent tax increase– get real folks welcome to a reccesion. higher taxes or cuts take your pick.

  • Mary

    I certainly appreciate your coverage of this issue Frances. It’s a bit complicated and has some history to it. For starters, the strategic direction of the Park Board under now-departed Susan Mundick consistently moved a way from anyting that could in any way be characterized as a “social program” . Hers was a straight up 1950s interpretation of parks and recreation. Now, as cuts are proposed for their budgets, they “request City Council to increase funding to the Park Board by $1.3 million for recreation services – sufficient to prevent the damaging cutbacks to community centre social service programs for the vulnerable that will occur without such support.”
    My first question is ‘where were they when Mundick was diminishing the role of communtiy centres in anything that didn’t involve a stick and a ball or a walk in the woods?’ and my second question is ‘what do they really intend to do with the money they want restored?’

    It is time for the park board and City to embrace the broad definition of recreation that the public being served does, and to recognize as Frances does, that a dollar spent supporting healthy activities in younger years pays back by 8-10 times in reduced costs related to crime, poorer health status, under-employment, and a myriad of other costs to the City.

  • Eric Harms

    @Anon 2:37 PM,

    I’m unclear whether you’re confused about Community Centres, or seek to confuse. Regardless, I’ll clarify.

    The Community Services Group – which can be found on the City website – is a department of the City and has nothing whatsoever to do with Park Board or Community Centres.

    Twenty-two separate neighbourood-based, volunteer Associations, in partnership with Park Board, operate Community Centres citywide.

    The sole exception to this model is Britannia in Grandview-Woodlands, which has a unique governance because it is part of a more extensive whole that also includes a Public Library, an elementary school, and a high school.

    If you are a member of my Association, you are welcome to attend (next March) our AGM, where our auditor will give a complete, chapter-and-verse financial breakdown.

  • Not Running for Mayor

    Britannia while not perfect is what we should have all out community centres be, such an efficient use of space, a community centre, high school, elem school, library all in one, sharing fields, resources. It’s a shame it’s not the standard.

  • Eric Harms


    Two points:

    How in the world do you infer a ten percent tax increase from maintaining the present level of service at your Community Centre? Instead of ‘devouring services’, as you say, our centres actually provide services for all Vancouverites in an amazingly cost-effective way.

    On my board, I count two directors (past Presidents both) who have rendered decades of extraordinary service to my neighbourhood even though neither resides in the city – for no personal benefit whatever. Although I am acquainted with James Gill, I have no idea where he lives. But, like my two confreres, he clearly enjoys the confidence of the majority of his association and of his board, or he wouldn’t hold the office he does. And, like his directors and the countless other volunteers that make his centre work, he gives his time and talents For Free.

    And you think this is about asking for more?

    Get real.